Saturday, 11 August 2012

Above-Average Drivers

"The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnic background, is that we all believe we are above-average drivers." (Dave Barry) 

I thought it was time to warn people that I am learning to drive. I've been at it for a while but am starting to think I should send out an advanced notification to people before I hit the road. Just in case I hit them. 

Driving is fun. It's also logical and flows well so it isn't as hard as I thought. It's still hard though. The absolute worst part is driving theory. Theory isn't really that difficult but it's as boring as watching paint dry. I have a whole book on it but just can't really get into it. I like reading, yet somehow the Highway Code isn't top of my list of books to read before I die. I have my theory test next Wednesday though, so I should probably get to it.

I enjoy driving a lot but it frustrates me. I dislike being unable or slow to learn how to do things. I know all new drivers stall when they're starting out and it's generally just practice that is needed but it is still painful. I stalled in front of a bus during my first lesson. I practically died then and there of embarrassment. The bus driver just gave me a friendly wave. If he'd been a nasty driver I may have cried.
My instructor is a women and my male friends thought that was quite funny. The volume of women driver jokes wasn't as high as I expected though. They're supportive in their own way - or rather they listen and laugh at me when I tell them I have done badly in a lesson. They assure me this is their way of spurring me on to improve. 

One issue is the cost of driving. My lessons are expensive and insurance is a joke. I could buy several cars for the price it costs me to insure one. It's not really fair. 

I hope I can pass before I go to university. As I said, this driving lark costs a fortune and take up a lot of time. It's a useful skill to have. I think it will be worth it in the long run. As long as I don't end up stuck as the designated driver in the future.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Battle of the Sexes

"Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes.  There's just too much fraternizing with the enemy."  (Henry Kissinger)

My 'sermon' for today is going to be on sexism.  

I'm surprised it has taken me so long to rant about this particular issue. It gets discussed practically once a day in my friendship group and it's one of those important ones. Naturally, I've got a lot to say on it. I like a good argument.  

I would consider myself a feminist. I believe firmly in equality of the sexes and so on. I think a person is odd not to. That is what a feminist is - someone who thinks women are equal to men and should not be discriminated against in any aspect of life. That's it. They don't think men suck and should die. Nor are they all 'butch lesbians'..

There's a lot of hate for feminism now. Girls think it's outdated and not cool. It is still highly relevant. This year is the first where there's been a female athlete representing every country featured in the Olympics. How bad is that? 

Times have changed a little though. There's a difference between being equal and being annoying. It gets on my nerves when women are sexists against guys and moan about sexism against them. It shouldn't work like that.  

I want to exercise a bit of logic. At work, if we need to lug a whole load of boxes around, I tend to delegate to the lad I work with who does kickboxing and works out, rather than struggle with it myself out of a misplaced sense of equality. I like it when a guy offers to walk me home or buys me dinner. It is a nice (and apparently rare) gesture. Equally I will make my boyfriend a sandwich -  sometimes just because I love him, sometimes as it's one of those gestures I can use to trade for stuff I want. Sexism can be used to your advantage.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

30 Things About Me

My friend Claire, another blogger, is celebrating her 30th birthday soon! To mark it she's shared 30 facts about herself and challenged her friends to do that too. Being a fairly average person, this is harder than you would think... I hope she doesn't mind but I've decided to express my 30 facts as 15 things I like, then 15 things I don't. In no particular order.


1) Kittens

2) History

3) Words

4) Turquoise

5) Chocolate of any sort

6) Fantasy

7) The sound and smell of the sea

8) Unexpected texts

9) Family holidays

10) The necklace my boyfriend got me for my birthday

11) Rose wine

12) Going out with friends

13) Hugs

14) Old Disney films

15) My bed


16) Woodlice

17) Hypocrites

18) Badly written romance

19) Arguing with people close to me

20) Mushrooms

21) Narrow minded people

22) Too much make-up

23) The colour mustard

24) Holes in my tights

25) Zombies

26) Body hair

27) Being alone in the dark

28) Writer's block

29) Goodbyes

30) Sparkly vampires


So, there you go. Happy Birthday, Claire! I hope you have a very special day. :)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Hero

"I'm a hero with coward's legs." (Spike Milligan)



I was thinking today about role models. I don't really have a 'hero' or someone I aspire to be like. I have people I find highly inspiration and who have shaped my outlook but I don't see the point of having a hero. Chances are, humans being flawed, they may do something to let you down. People are human and I don't mean this in a nasty way - I like that people have positives and negatives. It's unnatural to think someone's perfect and put them on a pedestal.


Few of the stereotypical role models do much for me. This may sound a little shallow but although I can see how some people have done great things - the Mother Teresa type of role model - I just don't feel a personal connection to that. Then when people suggest certain pop culture type role models, I just laugh. There's no need to be an individual for the sake of it so be inspired by mainstream stuff if you like but don't follow it just because it's mainstream.


Heroes make me think of Superman, Batman and that. Unless you're planning on becoming a vigilante, I don't see why you would look up to them. I do see why people would have role models but personally I just don't think like that. Everyone I have met has shaped me in some way. Some more than others. My mother, for example, is pushy enough that I was made to do my best but she would let my own preferences flourish, despite her hoping I would like what she liked. I owe her a lot and respect parts of her - she was the first female area manager of the company she worked for and she took breast cancer on the chin. She also gets easily pissed off about the silliest things and threatens to not let me out of the house if I don't tidy my room.


Generally, authors are the closest thing I can find to a role model of mine. Obviously, I want to write and some authors inspire me to do so. Terry Pratchett's writing and attitude to life is a virtual faith in itself and makes me think a lot about life, the universe and everything. Tamora Pierce is an author who shaped my childhood quite considerably. She probably deserves a post all to herself. I was rereading a series of hers recently and remembering how much of my young life I spent in my garden re-enacting scenes from her books with my sister wielding sticks as swords. Her female leads are the epitome of strong female characters. Some female characters can become silly, unbelievable or annoying when the author tries to make them kick ass. Just being 'feisty' or mouthy is simply a pain. Also a woman's natural limitations of stature and strength should be remembered unless they become unbelievable. And please don't make them beautiful and strong and smart and kind... They have to have a flaw or it's ridiculous. Pierce gave her characters enough fears and weaknesses to overcome that they were relatable. There was a theme in her writing that anyone could be a hero and although that may sound clich├ęd I dare any girl to read those books and not want to go out and do something epic with their lives. 


I don't think it's bad to have role models. It's never good to be too set in your ways so let people shape you and all that. It's great to feel inspired by someone. I do believe in individuality though and think, warts and all, you should be who you are and not rely too much on how other people are.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Yo Ho Ho..

"Fifteen men on a dead man's chest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, Drink and the devil had done for the rest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum." (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Pirates or Ninjas?

I know we've all wondered this at some point. It is one of those questions up there with the meaning of life.

Tomorrow is Hastings Pirate Day and I heartily look forward to putting on skirt, corset and hat and setting out with my plastic cutlass to town. They are trying to regain the Guinness World Record for "largest gathering of pirates". It is slightly disturbing walking through the street and seeing so many Jack Sparrow lookalikes in one place. It is great fun though. A lot of bad things can be said about the somewhat unsavoury town of Hastings but it does undeniably have character. What do you expect from the descendants of smugglers?

I'm rather a fan of our smuggling heritage. There was a battle at Sidley Green just up the road from where I live between the smugglers and the blockade men around 1820. I do believe the smugglers won. Obviously there was a brutal side to piracy, just like the knights in shining armour were less chivalrous than legend tells, but the fantasy is much more exciting than truth.

I certainly have no problem with the idea of letting my children play at being pirates. Pirates represent freedom, exploration and pleasure. We'll play down the plundering, raping and binge drinking until the kids are older.

Back to the point - in a straight fight, I'm fairly sure a ninja would trump a pirate. Luckily pirates don't fight fair so I'd say a pirate stands a cheating chance. I like ninjas - I don't want to offend them in case they come silently after me. There's a place for ninjas and I know they have a vast following. They are a bit colourless for me though. I am more of a pirate person myself. They have better taste in clothes, and are definitely the ones I would prefer to party with. 

Happy Pirate Day, y'all! Arrgh!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Mummy Porn

"Fifty Shades of F*cked-up" (Fifty Shades of Grey)

The infamous Fifty Shades of Grey is the newest piece of popular fiction that I have on my hit list. Generally I am put off things that are adored by the masses and usually this is with a good reason..

Fifty Shades is painfully written. I am a little bit of a snob when it comes to fiction and have come to the conclusion that bad authors use, with unfortunate regularity, the first person style as they just can't hack any other way of writing. First person can be used very well but it can also be a cop-out of epic proportions. First person does not need subtlety. Nor does Fifty Shades. With first person the author can literally tell you what the character is thinking in the most boring way possible. The girl actually says: "Did I just say that?" and "Jeez, he looks so freaking hot ". The lack of nuance means there's nothing to keep me interested. Another cringing part of Fifty Shades is the way the author namedrops long words. Maybe to seem more intellectual but it seems like they've swallowed a thesaurus. I just feel they could have used normal words and given it a more natural feel as it's meant to be Ana's POV. Plus there's too many adjectives. Good authors describe people so you can visualise them without you even realising they've taken time to do so. With this, every new person introduced was given a couple of lines of description. Every technique was so annoyingly obvious.   

I admit I have not read the book in its entirety. I may have missed out, later on in the book, on a piece of wonderfully crafted prose or may be drawing conclusions without enough evidence. I doubt it though. The whole premise of the love at first sight, followed by the "discovering dark secrets and a heartbreaking past", was a bit boring. The BDSM angle is what made it take flight. I read the extract where Christian "rips through" Ana's virginity. All I can say is: how are people turned on by this? It has been labelled 'Mummy Porn'. There's no accounting for taste.

I do sort of see how the series could be so appealing to people. It's full of shameless erotic sex. The sort that, if you suspend your disbelief at some of the description, makes you lick your lips ever so slightly when reading. Even sex aside, every girl wants to feel they are Ana and a man like Christian is worshipping them. It's also (apparently) more gritty and realist than the stereotypical love stories out there. All I can reply to that is, people saying that must be woefully badly read. Unless all you read is Disney Princess books, we know love is not 'vanilla'-like. I could point out several books that I, at 18, have read with well written sex and characters who are not your average Prince Charming and Damsel in Distress.   

Apparently the book has enhanced women's sex lives somehow. A theme of the piece was discovering and embracing your own secret desires so I can't object if they got a kick out of it and feel liberated to go do something kinky or whatever. I'm pretty liberated already to be honest and don't think reading about some wench getting tied up by her man is really going to improve my overall outlook on life. Anyways, porn is not that hard to find on the internet (or so I've heard) and if you're looking for porn with a heart (as it were) there are plenty of actual novels out there featuring characters with depth. People need to look for themselves rather than read what is popular at the time. People need to think for themselves.

The fact the piece developed when the author wrote a Twilight Fanfiction then decided the plot was good enough on its own, is enough to put any sane person off. I admit to laughing out loud when I realised that.

Fair play to the author, she's onto a winner here. I don't blame her - I blame the rest of humanity. They make me want to put my foot through my laptop screen when I read about them.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Science or Magic?

"Is sorcery science or magic?" (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)


One of my pet hates in fiction is the way authors use magic to explain everything they want. There's a line you shouldn't cross in order for a piece to read or watch with any degree of possibility. Ok, fiction is fiction and magic is fiction but there has to be rules or it's not fun anymore. If you can do whatever you want it's boring. I like it when the magic makes sense.

I recently watched the 2010 Sorcerer's Apprentice movie without much in the way of expectation. Surprisingly, I thought it was a rare gem of a movie. It was a perfectly formed ancient magic in the modern world thing with the stereotypical 21st century kid becoming apprenticed to an old, unaging sorcerer and then saving the world from the evil sorcereress that wants to destroy it. It took all the classic magic tropes and had fun with them.

I especially liked it as the magic was explained. The line between magic and science was blurred and the point was the sorcerers used the whole of their brain rather than just the usual parts we use. This meant they manipulated matter but within the parameters of actual science. The kid was super good at physics because of this and the kid's science skill was used to enhance his magic and it therefore made sense he defeated the Big Bad. I like it when there's a reason other than just some sort of destiny based on nothing and vaguely explained by magic. 

Also they didn't just use boring magic. So many movies have so little imagination when it comes to magic and just use energy bolts all the time. These guys went for the classics - fire, water, lightning, etc - but added their own flourishes. (Statues coming to life, people trapped in mirrors, rugs like quicksand. You know, interesting stuff.)

The film was generally real fun. There was great humour which relieved the stereotypical end of the world angle. There was an enjoyable homage to Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia when the kid decided the clean up and found the mops developed minds of their own. This kid was an actual geek, which made a nice change. Usually they get a 'fit' actor who tries to pretend to be all awkward but in this case you believed him when he said he wasn't up to saving the world. Which made it all the more epic when he did.

There was a great bad guy in Alfred Molina too. He's one of my favourite villain actors of all time. Also: Nicolas Cage. I don't usually like him that much but my opinion of him went up considerable after this. It might have been the epic trench coat, old man shoes and cool old-fashioned car..

The fact the plot also included a rather glorious thousand year love story added to my enjoyment. It's always about a wench but in this case it made sense and personally I thought it was rather beautiful. The relationships were good and that always improves the believability of fiction. The best was by far the relationship that developed between the Sorcerer and his apprentice. The mutual life saving that went on at opportune moments was the sort that inspired a fair amount of fangirling. I just wanted to give the Sorcerer and Apprentice and big hug.  

I shamelessly admit, this is one of my new favourite films.